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No indoor comforts as athletics suffers a ‘real kick in the teeth’

By David Kelly

Published 20/01/2011

Ciara Mageean's coach Eamonn Christie highlighted the impact of the scrapping of an indoor athletics facility in Antrim by comparing Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom.

“If you look around the rest of the UK — Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester and London, they all have indoor facilities and we're still going to be without one,” said Christie, who has guided Portaferry girl Mageean to the top of world athletics.

He added: “This is a real kick in the teeth for athletics and a real kick in teeth for all the other sports involved who are all minority sports trying to move forward.

“It's very hard for athletes particularly with the snow and ice, you just have nowhere to go and do quality training. We had to go to gyms to use treadmills it's just a really bad blow for the sport because we're crying out for an indoor facility.

“The sport is poorly funded as it is, the facilities are poor and I feel very sorry for the athletes. You know we don't need state of the art facilities, just a warm venue so quality training can take place.”

While Christie and those in the other four sports affected, basketball, tennis, sailing and cycling come to terms with the heavy blow, Sports Minister Nelson McCausland last night placed the blame at the door of David Cameron's government.

“The situation is, the money would be coming from our core budget. Four billion pounds is being taken out of the Northern Ireland budget over four years and it is capital budgets such as these that have been hit,” said McCausland.

“But I should add that even if we had the money there are issues around the actual bids because at this point in time none of the applicants has produced a satisfactory case, none of them got over the line as regards to Sport NI which looks at these bids.

“It's important if you're going for a big capital project that you have a business case that stacks up, value for money and sustainability but fundamentally it is the cuts by this conservative government that has made things so difficult.”

While McCausland says the capital investment was to come out of Northern Ireland's core budget, this would suggest a moving of the goalposts between the initial legacy announcement in 2006 and the subsequent bidding process.

The original announcement indicated the £50m fund was ring fenced for Northern Ireland's legacy and if it had not been then why would so many sports have taken the time to apply for capital investment?

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